Of Course Regulation Can Work

Dan Moren, writing last week at Six Colors:

Lately you can’t throw a digital camera without hitting a story on the various regulatory and legal challenges Apple’s been facing. While some have decried these actions as interference in the internal operations of a company, there’s one salient detail that I think those opinions often overlook.

Regulation works.

Here are just a handful of examples from the past few months of Apple changing its policies due to regulations — or, in some cases, the mere threat of regulation.

I’d change “regulation works” to “regulation can work” or “regulation sometimes works”. But there’s no question we’re seeing results. Moren cites three recent examples:

These changes are all wins. But they’re also all low-hanging fruit. Apple has no major self-interested reasons to fight against any of them, and regulatory scrutiny forced the company to stop ignoring them. It’s similar to how the Japan Fair Trade Commission’s investigation led to Apple loosening its anti-steering rules for “reader” apps worldwide in 2021. That might not have happened at all without the regulatory scrutiny, and certainly wouldn’t have otherwise happened when it did. But it was the lowest of low-hanging fruit: Apple, to my eyes, lost nothing by loosening those anti-steering provisions.

The real regulatory rubber hits the road on the issues that are against Apple’s own interests, or detrimental to the experience of users (which issues are, effectively, against Apple’s interests — Apple is in the business of making its users happy).

  1. The parts-pairing stuff is complex. Right-to-repair advocates often wrongly assume that Apple’s repair policies are geared toward making money — either turning a profit on the repairs and replacement parts directly, or by implicitly encouraging users to buy brand-new devices to replace broken ones rather than fix them. That’s just not the case. Repairs are not a profit center for Apple. The complexity Apple is trying to manage is guaranteeing that supposedly genuine replacement components are in fact genuine, and that stolen devices can’t be mined for black-market components. Last week’s changes seem to manage a good balance of all these factors. ↩︎

Wednesday, 17 April 2024